Category Archives: Recovery and Life in General

Love the Suck (and other lessons on his birthday)

Sometimes the universe does you a favor. It puts you in the right place, at the right time, for something good to happen. And if you’re lucky, you realize it when it happens. It’s like a big cosmic combo lock has just clicked into place.

Sometimes we don’t realize it until after the fact, but that’s okay too. It’s still special in retrospect as we look back. I hope you know that feeling, and if you don’t, I hope you feel it some day, because it’s really an awesome feeling.

I’ve felt it a few times, usually when the universe puts a certain person in my life who’s meant to be there. A friend, a lover, a teacher or mentor (or someone I can teach or help), maybe an animal. I’ve even felt it with some of you who are now reading.

One of the first times I felt the universe click into place was when I met my college boyfriend, “M.” I felt it again ten years later when he and I reconnected as friends. You may remember — I wrote about M in my post “The Song Remembers When” last year to wish him a happy birthday.

Today is M’s birthday again, and since so many of you were intrigued by him, I thought I would share him again with you. This time, in his own words.

See, because I have a feeling the universe does everyone a favor when it puts M in their lives. M is a natural teacher and guide, and I’m convinced he has a very old and wise soul. The following are a few lessons M has taught me through the years, and now, for his birthday, I pass them on to you.

These are his words from emails and messages–even a book inscription. While M knows I was going to share some of his words, he doesn’t know which words. (How is that for trust, huh?) I hope this is a nice birthday surprise for M, and I hope his words help you some day, as they have helped me.

As you’re reading, listen for the click . . . that’s the sound of the universe clicking into place. That’s the sound of the universe doing you a favor.

***

Music can transform and heal a soul

“In 1988 or ’89 I attended the Atlanta Jazz Fest in Piedmont Park and got to see Joe Satriani. I’m still stunned, I swear. He’d had a tragedy of some sort and it was a surprise that he played. He came on unexpectedly and they kind of crammed him in to the show. I don’t remember the name of the song–and haven’t heard it since–but it was wrenching as I watched a musical innovative god surrender in front of 2000 people. I was up front stage right and watched him weep as he played. He was the only man on the planet for those 15 minutes; he existed for that song at that time. If I get to face God ever I will thank Him for that time. It sounds a little melodramatic but it is truth.”

[In the one-in-a-million chance that you know which song Satriani performed that day, please (pretty please?) leave me a comment or email me at runningonsober@gmail.com - thank you!]

***

Photo via the very lovely MamaMickTerry (thanks Michelle!)

Photo via the very lovely MamaMickTerry (thanks Michelle!)

 Flowers can transform and heal a room

“I like flowers a lot. In any room just one flower changes everything. The energy, the feeling, the emotion of any place is changed instantly by one single flower. It’s awesome. Go buy some flowers for your house today and see if it’s not true.”

***

Books are meant to be loved, and to love a book means to give it away

“I love used books and I love what they’re all about. Used books live and survive on the edge just as we do. It’s so easy for a book to be read and thrown in the trash, but a used book is very special just for the mere fact that it is used. . . . It was loved or acknowledged, and for a moment it was read and enjoyed, and, most importantly, it has been shared.

‘Someone was awe-stricken enough to give this book away. I too was awe-stricken with its content, and I give it to you. I hope that you love it enough to give it away. Happy Birthday!”

[The book was a collection of Walt Whitman poetry. While I haven't been willing to give away the book, yet, at least I loved the lesson enough to give it to you.]

via wiki commons, CC BY 2.0

Timeless Books via wiki commons, CC BY 2.0

***

You can benefit from pain; it’s all about perspective

“If I take time away from deadlifting, then the first session back, my hands burn and hurt as the callouses thicken and I get stronger. My hands hurt but I know they’re getting better and I’m benefitting from the pain. I’m getting safer because of the injury not to be hurt again. It’s going to be okay, even if it’s not a good day, even if things don’t go well. It’s hard to see past pain sometimes as they say. . . . remember that it’s all about perspective sometimes.”

***

Wood never dies; it lives on through its projects

“I never got too far into conventional art, although now I’m excited at the thought. I find art in carpentry and in bikes.

‘My daddy was a ruthlessly hard man. . . . his only peace was in the perfection that he created in his wood work. I remember being five or six and him having me close my eyes and feel planks of wood to identify species and different parts of the tree so that grain patterns on cabinet faces would match up. He was obsessive about his creations, I think hoping that someone would “understand” and “get it” through his work just as an artist. He told me that wood never dies, and that anything made from it allows the tree that it came from to live as if it were never cut. . . . To this day I feel the intentions of old-school carpenters.

‘Next time you are in an old house, close your eyes and run your hands down the door casing or the joints on the wainscoting or cabinets. The art is what you don’t see — in the chatters and tiny hammer dimples.”

Thanks again to beautiful Michelle

Thanks again to the beautiful Michelle of MamaMickTerry

***

Life is short; love the suck

this body
holding me
reminding me that I am not alone
this body makes me feel eternal
all this pain is an illusion

[Lyrics from Tool's "Parabol" and "Parabola." M introduced me to their life-changing music, and explained:]

“. . . meaning to me that there is joy and sweet celebration in every breath, especially at the last. Our bodies are frail, and we as spirits that inhabit them are fickle and fallable. We are preoccupied with everything in the world except enjoying every aspect of our being. Until you see someone die and look in their eyes, see them there and then realize that they are just gone, we will always take for granted our lives. This is all very hard to convey. I love every day even the shitty ones, and I love the suck just as much as the smooth sailing. I have been in a terrible way as of late but I still love it. . . all ups and downs should be celebrated. That’s enough. Goodnight beautiful. I love you.”

***

You can be stupid and brilliant at the same time

“Damn I was stupid and brilliant. If I had not let you go, you would not be who you are, and we would not be here having this friendship.”

***

 

Happy Birthday, M. You’re beautiful. I love you. And, like wood, love never dies either.

 

Joe Satriani, “Always With Me, Always With You

So You Want to Quit Drinking

so you want to quit drinking
after Bukowski

so you want to quit drinking
give up the bottle
clean up
dry up
grow up

so you’re finally ready
to quit waking up
in strange places
with spit
on your face
vomit
in your hair
glass
in your hands
asphalt
in your knees

oh I bet you really made an
ass of yourself
this time.
did you fuck up
royally?
fall off the wagon?
fall off your bar stool?
fall off the karaoke stage?

did you flash the bartender
kiss a woman
grope a man?
did you fuck a stranger
flip a cop the bird
throw up on a neighbor’s lawn?
did you scream at your mother
slap your kid
kick your cat?
did you drunk dial your ex
walk out on the tab
crash your best friend’s car?
did you lose your wallet
your keys
your dog
your mind?
did you pick up a gun or a razor
a bottle of pills
a pen to write your last goodbyes?

no?
none of that?
well maybe it didn’t happen.
not like that.
or
maybe it did.
or maybe it will
next time.
how
the hell do you
know?

ah.
so that’s why you’re
ready
to
quit
drinking.
you’re tired
of no longer being in
control of your actions.
tired
of being a slave
to the demons in your head.
tired
of running from yourself
only to find out you
cannot
ever
out
run
yourself.

you can lose yourself
oh sure.
you can go mad,
give in,
give up.
but why would you want
to do that?

why let them win?

they
will, you know,
if you let them.
the demons in your head.
the fat
pasty
booze execs
their
slick suits
and
slick hair
and
slicker words.
the smug
housewives
sipping their
wine slushies
whispering
over their
pee-no-gree
gossiping about
your
demise.
“oh poor dear.
she was so fragile.
bless her heart.
what will become of the children?”

fuck ‘em.

if
you give in,
they win.
and there’s always
going to be a
they.

fuck ‘em all.

your
demons?
they live in
the past, babe,
this is the now
the n. o. w.
your demons aren’t here
they’re way back there.

why
go
back?

all
those nights,
all
those bottles,
all
those black-outs and hangovers,
all
those times you wanted to die?

newsflash, baby.

you’re
still
here.

tougher.
stronger.
badder.

somehow you’ve had more
than your share of second
chances.

you should be dead.
I don’t know why
you’ve been spared.
like me,
you’ve survived
a thousand deaths.
another
laughing
heart,
another
modern
Lazarus,
another
marvelous
god.

maybe those gods got plans
for you baby.
maybe it’s
one big cosmic
horse race in the sky.
maybe this is your race to lose
baby.

you really are marvelous you know
the gods wait to delight in you
maybe they like you
maybe you’re entertaining
maybe you make them laugh
or maybe they just feel sorry for you
laying on the bathroom floor
beside that other god.
maybe you remind them of themselves
the gods were young and crazy once too
dancing on tables and flashing strangers
gods gone wild
before they too
cleaned up
dried up
grew up

oh
how the gods love fools and drunks
but honey you don’t have to be a drunk
you can just be a fool
or
even better
be the one who fools them all
they’ll never see you coming.

oh
there will be days you want
to fall back.
there’s no help for that.
but don’t fall.
save those feelings
send them to that space
that place in the heart
that will never be filled.

we can meet in that space.
and
instead of waiting
instead of drinking
we will release the krakens.

what?
you thought I really had a
bluebird in my heart?
no baby,
I have a fucking kraken in mine.
and so do you.
instead of drinking
we’ll release the krakens
and laugh in delight
and smoke our cigars
and we will make it through
this day.

so
you really want to quit drinking?

put down the bottle.
do not pick it up again.
ever.

pick up the pen.
do not put it down again.
ever.

and
when they come calling,
which they will
for a while,
you know what to do.
let them keep their
bluebirds -
you
release your kraken,
baby.

nobody
can save you but yourself
,
true.
but a kraken never hurt either.

now
off you go baby . . .
remember,
bottle, no.
pen, yes.
and write write write.
write it all
let it come out of
your soul like a rocket

c’mon baby, you want to quit drinking?
ain’t nothing to it but to
do it!
do it!

then get up tomorrow
and do it again.
then the next
and the next
and the next day again.

but you have to start
some day.
how about today?
this day,
this
one day.
that’s all there is.
you can’t go backward.
you can’t go forward.
n. o. w. is what you got.
it may not be much,
today,
but it’s enough.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

 

~~~

Inspired in part by Bukowski’s:
So You Want to Be a Writer,” “Another Comeback,” “The Laughing Heart,” “No Help For That,” “The Bluebird,” “Nobody But You.”

 

Brother Jon is Three Years Sober!

There’s something pretty special about a guy who dedicates his three-year sobriety anniversary blog post to another person.

I mean, who celebrates three years of sobriety by writing about someone else?

Brother Jon, that’s who.

Meet BroJo ... proving that Mormons (and Sober folks) can be normal people too.

Meet BroJo … proving that “Mormons (and sober folks) can be normal people too.”

I met “BroJo” early last year after his post “Feel the Beat of the Rhythm of the Nineties” was Freshly Pressed. It’s no secret that I’m an 80s music fan (visit my guest post “A Defense of 80s Music” at El Guapo’s if you don’t believe me), but truthfully, I may like 90s music just as much. So I was happy-dancing around like Duckie singing Otis Redding when I discovered another 90’s music kindred! When I found out Jon was sober too–almost two years at that point–well, that made me break out in full Vogue. What? I know I’m not the only one that still loves that dance. Am I?

Fast forward eighteen months and here we are. We’re both still blogging, we’re both still music lovers, and we’re both still sober.

And today Jon celebrates three years of sobriety.

Congratulations on your three years, Jon. And thank you again for dedicating your anniversary post to me.

Seriously, who does that?

Oh yeah, Brother Jon does.

Stop by Jon’s post “Third Year’s a Charm” to say congratulations, and while you’re there, click around and get to know him a little bit (don’t forget his 90s post). You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer, more generous blogger out there.

And, Jon? Three years sobriety calls for a very special happy dance. No, not the Duckie. Not even the Vogue. Nope, three years calls for a very special 90s dance . . .

The Carlton.

***

Don’t forget to check out the latest Life in 6 Songs post. Find out how to join in with your own 6 songs or by sharing a few of your memories from the series (deadline is Monday at 10 am central). You may even win an Amazon gift code! Don’t be shy, we’d really love to hear from you.

***

Have you met BroJo yet? Which music do you prefer: 80s or 90s? Neither? ;) Do you have a special happy dance? A favorite song to dance to? 

Forgiveness, Church TV and Red Lights

I don’t normally watch church on television. Weekends find us usually watching whatever sports may be on.

We tend to watch more sports on tv  (image via)

We’ll even watch rugby. Those guys are tough! (image via)

Last weekend though as I was flipping around looking for soccer (futbal, if you prefer), I saw a local preacher talking and decided to watch for a minute. Like I said, I don’t normally watch church on tv, but this was a little different; the preacher on tv was female. And not only was she female, but she was an African-American female.

Big whoop, Christy, right? Where have you been? The 1950’s?

No, it’s not that. See, I live in a “small” town; it’s conservative, it’s stuffy, it’s the type of town kids can’t wait to leave. It’s not a young town–the majority of people who live here are old–and it’s definitely not progressive.

(I feel compelled to say that we only moved here to take care of my husband’s mother, who, yep, was old. It was the right thing to do at the time. Of course that took me away from my own mother who was not so old and who was dying of cancer. But that’s another topic for another day, maybe. Or maybe not, since there is nothing I can do about that now. And I really am trying to embrace this whole “Letting Go” thing I took on for my 40th birthday. I guess I felt compelled because I don’t want you to think I’m old or stuffy or conservative or stuck in a small town, though I may be two of those things now. But Let it Go already, Christy, move on . . . )

Okay, so anyway, I remember when the church announced it was hiring a female to come in to minister. “Oh my goodness! They’re doing what? Oh my, oh my, oh my!” You could hear the whispers all around town.

When news got out that the preacher was also black? That was just the cherry on top. Nobody really said too much about that, but you could feel it in their tone. “Did you hear about the new preacher they hired? Did you know she’s . . . fe-male?” With eyebrows raised and layers of emphasis on the “fe-“, as if you could lump everything that is non-white-male within the confines of raised eyebrows and two little letters.

But you know what? Everyone loves her. She’s young, vibrant, relevant, funny and straight-shooting. She’s even made me consider going to church because of how well she blends real-life lessons into religion. I feel like I could even overlook the whole God thing and instead consider it a self-help course.

The first time I saw her on tv was Christmas Eve. I decided to watch because I had heard the gossip and whispers when I went in town to “The Wal-Mart” and I was curious to hear what she had to say. (Okay, maybe I was curious how others were reacting to her.) Something happened as I watched though — I was glued to the tv. She was talking to my heart, and I couldn’t not listen.

or dog shows . . . (image via)

This little guy is glued to the tv too . . . (image via)

That night she was talking about “Letting Go.” Of anger, of resentment, of anything holding you back from living the life you want to live. But it’s not just letting go, she said, it’s embracing and doing the things you need to do (not the same as want to do) to get you to that life you want to live.

She shared a story of letting go of her own anger.

I had a lot of unresolved anger in my heart then, so I listened raptly as she talked about going to the shopping mall, joining the throngs of other last-minute shoppers, and circling (and circling and circling) the parking lot looking for a spot. When she finally found one, another car swooped in like a snake and stole it away from her. She shared how her heart filled with rage and her mouth filled with profanity and she wanted to get out and give THAT OTHER PERSON a piece of her mind.

Her anger grew and grew until she felt like a smoldering volcano. This anger made her think about all the other things that had made her angry, so not only was she upset at this other driver, she was now angry at her mom, her fifth grade teacher, her first husband, and the person who had 30 items in the “10 item or less lane” at “The Wal-Mart.”

Because anger loves to incite anger, her anger spoke to my anger. And there we were, two little angry volcanoes.

But she knew that she had to let this anger go. It wasn’t helping. Instead, it was making her miserable.

So she chilled out, did her shopping, and as she was leaving the mall, she saw a lady in the parking lot having car trouble. It was dark by then and she was late for an appointment. “I don’t have time for this tonight! I am late, late, late. I know someone else will help that woman,” she thought.

So she drove away. And at the red light leading out of the mall, she realized every other person was probably saying the same things to themselves. Even though she was late and even though she really didn’t want to, she turned around at the red light to go help.

She went on to talk about compassion and some of the hardships she had encountered in life, even some of the challenges she faced moving to this small town. Honestly, I don’t remember it all, but I remember how I felt. I remember thinking this lady gets it.

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
Dr. Maya Angelou

So the other day when I was looking for futbal and happened to see her on tv, I stopped flipping, and I watched.

This time she was talking about forgiveness. And again, it was like she was talking directly to me. See, I’ve been harboring a resentment and waiting for an apology from a friend for something that happened years ago. My friend offered to apologize, but she wanted to apologize on her terms. Screw your terms, I thought, I’m the one hurt, you should apologize just the way I asked. It made me angry (which in turn, opened up those anger flood gates, just like the preacher in the parking lot, and there I was again, a little angry volcano). Why can’t she just do what I want her to do?! Now she needs to apologize for this too!

Volcano via BBC

Have you ever been so angry you could spit fire?
The Indonesian volcano Anak Krakatau erupts at night (credit: Getty Images/Tom Pfeiffer/VolcanoDiscovery) via BBC Earth

But this preacher . . . she talked about forgiving others, get this, even if they don’t apologize. Not only that, but even if they’re not sorry. What?! Blasphemy! I don’t want to forgive, I want to be angry. I’m justified here. Yeah, so what? In the notorious words of Dr. Phil, “And how’s that workin’ for you?”

Then she held up a book and compared it to a little annoyance. She handed the book over to someone in the congregation, and said, “Hold this out at arm’s length. Don’t let go.”

Have you ever tried this? It starts out easy. It’s just a little book, it barely weighs anything. “Piece of cake, right?” she asked.

But after a while, that little book starts feeling like War and Peace. Soon your hand starts aching. And then your arm starts shaking. And then you start sweating, and pains start traveling to your back. Then your entire body starts trembling until you can’t stand it any more. You have to drop the book.

What starts out like a little tiny annoyance will build and build and poison every inch of your body . . . if you aren’t willing to let it go.

Like most, I’ve heard the quote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (It’s a biggie in recovery meetings.) But I don’t think the meaning really sunk in until I saw that poor little man holding out that book with his arm shaking, ego and stubborn-pride being the only things keeping it up. And for what? Why do we let ourselves suffer so much? The person we’re angry at isn’t suffering. They’re probably not even thinking about us!

You don’t forgive to let the other person off the hook. You forgive to let yourself off the hook. Drop the book already. Forgive, move on. Let. It. Go.

While forgiveness will always be a hot button for me, I can accept that some things are in the past. They can’t be changed. So I can either continue to let myself suffer as I hold up this book that is now the size of an entire Encyclopedia series, or I can drop the book and move on, for my own health and sanity.

Forgiveness. Acceptance. Letting go. Self-care. I can call it whatever I need to call it, I just need to do it. Maybe next time I’ll be smart enough to not pick up the book in the first place.

To close, let me tell you a quick story about me and my mom:

Mom and I were on vacation a couple of years before she got sick. We were relaxing in our hotel room flipping through the channels on tv. Guess what we land upon? Church. The preacher was screaming and jumping up and down, he was sweaty and red-faced, and we were absolutely mesmerized.

“Jesus is coming!” he shouted. “Are you ready?! What are you doing?! What are you doing right now? You’re at home, watching The TV! Jesus is coming but you’re gonna miss Him because you’re at home watching tv! When your friends ask you, “Hey did you see Jesus? He was just here.” you’re gonna have to say, “Nope, I was at home . . . watching The TV.”

It became one of those things Mom and I would laugh about, especially after she got sick.

I’d call her on the phone, “Hey Mom, whatcha doin’?”

“Not much, Christy, just watching tv.”

“Just watching tv?!  Jesus is coming back, and you’re going to miss Him, Mom, because you’re at home watching The TV!”

And then we would laugh and remember better days. Even now, typing this, I have to laugh. My god wouldn’t care if I was watching tv. My god could preempt any tv show he or she wanted in order to get a message to me.

And now I have to smile and shake my head, because I just realized maybe my god has been preempting shows getting messages to me:

  • Let go of anger.
  • Help others, even when you don’t want to.
  • Accept apologies, even those you don’t receive.
  • Drop the book.
  • If you’re flipping channels, don’t be afraid to watch a little church. Sometimes that’s how important messages get to you.

And, sometimes, you can change your life at a red light. (Jonny Lang as preacher? Now there’s a church I’d never miss.)

A chance to breathe
While sitting at a red light
You look around
reflecting on your life…

“Red Light” from Jonny Lang’s album Long Time Coming

How about you? Ever watch church on tv? How do you let go of anger? Still waiting for someone to apologize to you? Why/why not?

* A special thank you to Michelle (MamaMick) for inviting me to buzz around her newest personal writing blog The Hidden Hummingbird Diaries. I’ll be posting poetry and playing with new creative projects as my alter-ego Christina’s Words. Come say hi and check out my first two pieces “Words, Unread” and “The Secret: A Golden Shovel Poetry Challenge.”

Who were You before You became You? (Braveheart Chronicles Vol. 2)

Every memory of looking out the back door
I had the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor
It’s hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.

****

I miss that town
I miss the faces
You can’t erase
You can’t replace it
I miss it now
I can’t believe it
So hard to stay
Too hard to leave it

~Photograph by Nickelback

****

Last June, after 46 years of being a smiling face in someone else’s photo album, I had a mini-breakdown. That meltdown manifested as internal irritability, weight loss, sleep deprivation and an overwhelming desire to curl up into fetal position in order to keep my ugly insides from spilling and stinking up the place. To that, I added a lethal dose of self-loathing and fear that my unwarranted, toxic attitude would wreck my kids’ lives.

Those blues came on like thick molasses, crept into my brain like poison ivy and I did everything I could think of to ignore the blackness.  It had probably been there for years and laid dormant until it wasn’t. I attributed the depression to hormones, empty nesting, dwindling relationships and a stubborn refusal to grow old.

Instead of panicking, I did the things I do to self-heal, incite resilience and not be the victim. Running, gardening, boxing, praying and working harder so that I could feel worthy of the love and acceptance I was blessed to receive from everyone close to me. Love that I pushed away when offered.

Love I didn’t think I deserved.

After a couple of months, those efforts proved futile as I became more withdrawn, moody and mute as my insides shot darts through my thick skin and the Michelle Smile became more canned. Any chance at sanity became a choice of “giving in” and getting help or losing my soul in a really deep, dark place.

My husband was mortified when I told him (after my first appointment) that I was going to therapy. He didn’t even know that anything was wrong. His happy homemaker, the super working mom of his children who never needed sleep, had lost her tattooed smile and collapsed into a worthless slump on the floor. I don’t know if he was more upset at the puddle of mud or the fact that he couldn’t be to the one to “fix” me.

In traditional style, the counselor spent a lot of time asking about my childhood and I was  surprised by the audible gasps she would let slip from time to time. Experiences my therapist friend called trauma were the same things I chalked up to “lessons,” “life experiences” and “strengthening exercises” and I wasn’t convinced that anything “bad” had ever happened to me. Among other things, she diagnosed me with a perfection complex which I took as a compliment and then hated myself for being so prideful. It took some convincing  that I needed and “deserved” her help.

Happy and blessed people don’t need therapy. I’m just wasting her time.

Then she led me to the research of Brene’ Brown and that’s when the real healing began. I reference Ms. Brown a lot in my own blog and it’s her work that has inspired me to talk about our courageous subject today.

As part of my journey, I signed up for one of *Brene’s online art classes. I’m not even a “draws a clever stick person” type of artist but this class sounded like fun–therapy awash in watercolors! It was written and facilitated by Brene’ on the Oprah network and based on her research around Wholehearted Living.

The first week was a piece of cake. We were instructed to paint “permission slips” for things like: I give myself permission to be imperfect or I give myself permission to “be lazy” in bright, shiny paint.  Then I had to take a selfie (ugh!) with some inspiring words written on my hand and paste it in my art journal next to the permission slips.

IMG_6364

(See the pile of laundry behind my hand?!?)

 

The second assignment was titled, “Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People think.”

We (me and 1000 or so of my closest friends) had to pick two or three photos that captured our authentic self. A picture that revealed the person we were before we learned to please and exposed to environments that programmed us to be someone we weren’t.

It had a very Throw Back Thursday feel to it.

When was I not a person struggling to be perfect, hustling for worthiness and earning the love and respect of others? When was the last time I was me? When was the last time you were YOU?

Looking through the pictures put me right back into that mud puddle. The photo below hopped into my mind immediately, but the perfect-seeker kept hiding it at the bottom of the pile.

I was three, ticked off, fighting mad and not afraid to let anyone see it.

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I couldn’t get the blasted wagon around the corner no matter how hard I pulled and pushed and maneuvered. Mom and Dad watched as I got madder and madder. I yanked that blasted rust bucket until tears streamed down my face and fatigue dropped me to my bottom. Daddy tried to help and I firmly refused–physically pushing him away from me in a fit of anger and tears.

WHY CAN’T I GET THIS!?!

Finally, exhaustion trumped effort and I let Daddy finish the task. As young as I was, I still remember the physical release of the banging and pulling as well as the relief once my little tantrum was over and I gave in. However, that relief was soon replaced with shame as my conscientious mom lectured me on being a lady, watching my temper and learning to control myself.

It was the beginning of many times that my very young parents told me to pipe down, be quiet and act like a grown-up. I hid that quick, German-Irish temper and stashed it into shadowy places that were only revealed when too much was put into the storage closet and the doors burst open at the weight from the load. I learned to hate this little girl in the picture so I locked her in a much-deserved basement just to shut her up.

After I hid that picture under the pile (again), I reached for others and tricked Christy and Jennie into sending me theirs! I knew what I was looking for and searched for a snapshot that showed a spirit of simple joy, unawareness and unfiltered honesty. A mug shot that revealed my life force before life happened to it.

See the Narnia lamppost?

See the Narnia lamppost?

Wouldn’t it be great if our favorite pictures were unedited versions of ourselves reflective of true joy and an authentic self shining through? If we had the courage to show/post those instead of our million times hipsta-edited selfies?

I know that there’s joy and sadness in looking at old pictures of yourself. The pure joy we find in an unprompted smile framed within the absence of self-consciousness. Then the sadness when we remember times we felt less than ourselves but had to put on a mask so that no one could see the vulnerable person cowering  beneath.

Guess who??

Guess who??

How often do we forget who we are because we get so tangled up into what others think we should be? What is wrong with expressing emotion, crying in public, laughing or saying something inappropriate?

Isn’t it courageous and so much less work to let other people see us the way we know we really are? Flaws and all?

Therapy taught me to nurture my fighting, resilient spirit and I thrived in an environment of newly found authenticity and ever-present gratitude. I embraced imperfection and got better at expressing my emotions instead of letting them fester like a gross, pus-filled pimples. Once I stopped putting on the happy face, I simply started being happy–the irritability and associated shame dissipated and light trickled into crevices where there used to be sludge.

For the first time, I owned up to my hidden introversion and gave myself permission to ask for “alone time” in order to recharge. Doing so allowed me to engage with my family from a place of Joy and grace rather than from a space of displaced resentment and fatigue brought on by keeping two or three versions of the truth going at once.

Does this mean we need to spill our life story and wear hearts on our sleeves?

Not necessarily.

Privacy plays a role in authenticity, too. First of all, it’s important to recognize that not everyone has earned the right to hear and know our stories. There are certain individuals who will take your story, use it against you and set you in a darker place than where you started.  In fact, Brene’ talks about the six types of “friends” NOT to confide in here.

i've always loved puppies

Cute Chica Christy and her pooch!

I’ve learned to “be real” with everyone, but not everyone understands or believes that I am. If someone doesn’t trust my genuine kindness or accepts my unconditional compassion at face value, then they don’t really know me and I’m not going to waste my efforts in making sure that they do.

To me, authenticity comes when you set boundaries and adhere to them because they reflect your own personal beliefs, values and goals. Values and goals that are yours.

And what boundaries are we talking about here?

It could be as simple as not volunteering for every little community event because people expect you to. Joining groups, sitting in the front pew at church or heading up every committee and being everywhere until you end up being nowhere at all.

Some boundaries are more difficult. It might involve kindly, but firmly easing people out of your life who continue to be toxic and counterintuitive to the person you are. Maybe it’s a group of moms who bash you (in the sweetest voice imaginable) for what you feed your kids or how you parent. Maybe it’s a lover who wants you around when it’s convenient for him/her but makes you feel bad when you want more–deserve more. Perhaps it’s an old high school friend or even family member you’ve kept in touch with who continues to bring you down…every.damn.day.

And it’s not always a person. A job that pays the bills but drains your spirit and sucks out your insides. Maybe it’s drugs, alcohol, exercise, social media, shopping…anything that numbs you to the world and prevents people from seeing you.

It takes courage and strength to walk away from these people and situations. However, in doing so, you ultimately liberate, free and eliminate the dead weight on your soul.

I’ve often said that I’m not a trained counselor and anything I share is simply from a place of experience with the intention to help others avoid mistakes I’ve already made. But, I did stay at a Holiday Inn once, so I want to do more.

I want you to do more.

Go to your photo albums, look at a snapshot that represents an “authentic you” and answer these questions:

What do you feel when you look at her/him?

What do you like about that person?

What makes that person different than the person you are now?

What needs to happen in order to love the person you are now in order to be the authentic self you were then?

Now, feel free to paste those pictures in the comments below. Tell your story there or get in touch with me at mt_rd@hotmail.com and use this RoS/Braveheart platform to share your courageous words. I’m looking for guest writers!

I have read your talented words and you have blessed me with glimpses into your whole hearts. It’s your prose and the life stories you’ve shared that have given me a voice, too. For that, I’m forever grateful!

xo

Michelle (MamaMick)

An unedited picture of joyful me taken by my son 3 months into "being fixed."

An unedited picture of joyful me taken by my son 3 months into “being fixed.”

Special thanks to Christy and Jennie for sharing their #TBT photos (aren’t they soooo cute!!!).

*For information on Brene’ Brown’s online art class, look here.  Her second session starts in April. My markers and watercolors are poised for more!